Keith Allen’s grudge match in Kansas

I’ve just finished watching a programme on Channel 4 called Keith Allen Will Burn In Hell, in which someone nowadays best known for being the father of a mediocre pop star goes out to Topeka, Kansas, to get inside the cult known as the Westboro Baptist Church. The church have been well-known for years for picketing funerals, first of homosexuals and more recently of soldiers killed in Iraq. They hold up brightly-coloured placards proclaiming “God hates fags”, “Thank God for AIDS”, “Fag Flag” and the like. More recently they have taken to posting their offensive messages in videos on YouTube.

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Review of “This is England”

This is England is a film about skinheads in the English Midlands in the early 1980s, written and directed by the British director Shane Meadows (interviewed here) and set mostly on a council estate which turns out to be in Nottingham, although no reference to Nottingham is actually made anywhere in the film; some scenes are shot in Grimsby, an east coast port and seaside resort. It mainly revolves around the character of Shaun, a 12-year-old boy who has recently lost his father in the Falklands war, and who is partly based on Meadows (and some of the other characters are also partly based on people Meadows knew).

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Nick Cohen: crude parodies and a thinly veiled agenda

There are two extracts from Nick Cohen’s forthcoming book What’s Left? published in last Sunday’s Observer, in which he has a weekly column. For anyone who is not familiar with his writing, he is part of the same tendency as Paul Berman (of Dissent magazine and the author of Terror and Liberalism) and Christopher Hitchens; that is to say, he is from a left-liberal background but supports recent western military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and accuses the left generally of betraying its principles in its opposition to them. Until the early 2000s his columns had a strong pro-civil liberties stance and concern for asylum seekers; after the demonstrations against the war in Iraq in 2003, he denounced the Stop the War coalition of being an alliance of the “enemies of economic freedom” (the Socialist Workers) and the “enemies of sexual freedom” (the Muslim Association).

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Review: Shoot the Messenger

Shoot the Messenger was on BBC2 last night; it featured David Oyewolo (from the drama Spooks, British slang for spies) as Joe, a young black teacher who entered the profession after attending a meeting to discuss the chronic underachievement of black boys in British schools, at which one lady announced that what was needed was more black male teachers to provide positive role models.

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Martin Bright on 30 Minutes

Martin Bright’s documentary on British Foreign Office dealings with “radical Islam” finally aired on Channel 4’s 30 Minutes slot last night, and did not really contain any surprises for me. Martin Bright’s position is that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), in its dealings with the Muslim community, has largely restricted itself to dealing with groups led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Jama’at-e-Islami, to the exclusion of ordinary, moderate “Sufi” Muslims.

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City Circle: Islam and liberalism

Last night, as previously mentioned, City Circle held a debate between Alice Kneen of Magdalen College, Cambridge, proposing the motion that Islam was incompatible with liberalism, and Dr Richard Stone of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, opposing. I got there about 15 minutes late, which was probably more than halfway through Ms Kneen’s speech. She was predictably naming all the things about Islam which in her view made Islam incompatible with liberalism (the execution of apostates, etc.).

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